In the spring of 1996, everything seemed to be going my way. I was teaching second grade in a school that I loved, I was about to graduate with a Master’s degree in education, I had just started dating someone, and I was spending my Spring Break in California, visiting my sister. Life couldn’t be better!
|My sister (left) and me, waiting in line to see Jay Leno.|
As I look back at pictures from this trip, it seems unreal that I had cancer and didn’t even know it. It was another month until I had the mammogram that altered the course of my summer that year.
Over the years, I have struggled to understand why I got breast cancer. Research summarized by Mayo Clinic shows that there are ways you can help prevent breast cancer:
1. Maintain a healthy weight. (As you can see *ahem* I could have lost a few pounds.)
2. Avoid alcohol. (See the bottle of “juice” my sister is holding? It’s really my bottle of booze. Ha.)
3. Getting regular exercise. (No, spending my whole day on my feet teaching eight year olds didn’t count! But what about the bike riding and aerobics classes?)
4. Minimizing the duration of hormone therapy. (Menopause at 27…um, no.)
5. Avoid exposure to environmental pollution. (Maybe it was the LA smog that week, as opposed to the country air I was breathing back in rural Illinois…)
All joking aside, these are valid ways to reduce your breast cancer risk. However, none of these risk factors seemed to apply to me. I always thought that I must have the gene mutation that causes breast cancer, but when my mother’s gene testing came back with negative results, my oncologist told me I don’t have the mutations we know about. There is still so much doctors DON’T know about breast cancer.
This is why I belong to Army of Women. Army of Women connects women volunteers, like you and me, with research projects designed to determine the CAUSE of breast cancer. I may never know why I got cancer; but I’m going help Army of Women determine the cause of this disease. You can, too!
A program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, the Army of Women initiative is dedicated to recruiting one million women of all ages, ethnicities, with or without breast cancer, to sign up and participate in innovative breast cancer research studies. After signing up at www.armyofwomen.org, members are then contacted via email blast about new studies seeking volunteers. They can either sign-up for the studies online, or if they do not qualify, they are encouraged to forward the information to a friend or family member. Every woman over 18 is welcome to participate, whether a breast cancer survivor or someone never affected. There are currently more than 20 breast cancer studies seeking volunteers through the Army of Women. The full list of open studies seeking volunteers like you are listed at: www.armyofwomen.org/current.
If you haven’t signed up for the Army yet, please sign up today! Let me know in the comments if you have signed up for the AOW now or in the past. I’d love to know that you are a fellow member of the Army!